FATAL CORRECTIONS Inside the Deadly Mississippi Riot That Pushed the Justice Department to Rein In Private Prisons

Source: Janosch Delcker, The Intercept, December 17, 2016

FOR NEARLY TWO decades, the Bureau of Prisons has contracted with a handful of private companies to incarcerate thousands of non-U.S. citizens serving time for low-level federal offenses. Held in a dozen so-called “criminal alien requirement” prisons largely concentrated in remote, rural areas, the inmates in private custody are, for the most part, locked up for immigration offenses or drug violations. CAR facilities have been the target of sustained criticism from advocacy organizations, which argue that their existence reflects a two-tiered federal prison system that outsources a select population of inmates to contractors with a track record of abuse and neglect. In August, it seemed that years of pressure had finally paid off, when the Justice Department announced it would begin phasing out private prisons. … As the policies of the president-elect come into focus, it’s worth revisiting one of the incidents that prompted the DOJ’s resolve to cut ties with the industry in the first place — a deadly clash at a low-security, CCA-run facility on the outskirts of Natchez, Mississippi, that reflects how private prisons not only endanger inmates, but can also force low-wage workers from economically depressed communities into perilous circumstances. In May 2012, inmates at Adams County Correctional Center staged a protest over a litany of grievances, including claims that men had died in custody as a result of medical negligence. Though CCA officials were forewarned that dire conditions had bred a sense of desperation in the prison, they failed to prevent the escalation that followed. … CCA, now CoreCivic, runs three of the country’s CAR prisons; seven are run by the GEO Group and another two by Management and Training Corp. Like many of the isolated areas where CAR prisons operate, Adams County had a poverty rate about twice the national average. When CCA hosted its job fair in Natchez, more than 3,000 people lined up for 409 jobs. “We thought it was a federal prison … and we were under the impression that they would pay like $20 an hour,” Temple said when we met last year, in the closed bar of a casino by the Mississippi River. She was hired as a correctional officer in 2010, starting at $12.60 an hour. “Pretty good for here,” she told me. Later, she was promoted to sergeant. …

… According to federal investigations into the Adams riot, a group of Mexican inmates known as the Paisas, or “countrymen,” exercised considerable influence inside the facility, where only a fraction of the employees spoke Spanish. If inmates had complaints, they would consult with their Paisa representatives, who conveyed their concerns to prison management. In the weeks leading up to May 20, tensions had apparently risen within the group. “The Paisas felt their leadership was ineffective at communicating their grievances to prison officials since their complaints had gone unaddressed for so long,” stated an FBI affidavit later filed in cases related to the incident. The Intercept reached out to former Adams inmates who are now serving time on charges of rioting in a federal correctional facility. Responding in letters in Spanish, several described the unrest as primarily the result of conditions they felt had become increasingly dangerous and intolerable, including medical neglect, excessive use of segregation, spoiled food, a lack of interpreters, and mistreatment by staff. The Intercept is not naming the inmates who responded because of concerns about possible retaliation in their present facilities. …

Related:

Federal Officials Ignored Years of Internal Warnings About Deaths at Private Prisons
Source: Seth Freed Wessler, The Nation, June 15, 2016

The fatal uprising at Adams was one of four riots to explode in the BOP’s private prisons since 2008, all triggered by grievances over medical care. A trove of 20,000 pages of previously unreleased monitoring reports, internal investigations, and other documents obtained through an open-records suit show that the BOP had been warned of substandard care by its own monitors for years but failed to act. … In a striking confirmation of these findings, the new records show that BOP monitors documented, between January 2007 and June 2015, the deaths of 34 inmates who were provided substandard medical care. Fourteen of these deaths occurred in prisons run by CCA. Fifteen were in prisons operated by the GEO Group. The BOP didn’t respond to repeated requests for comment or to written questions before deadline. The records and interviews with former BOP officials reveal a pattern: Despite dire reports from dozens of field monitors, top bureau officials repeatedly failed to enforce the correction of dangerous deficiencies and routinely extended contracts for prisons that failed to provide adequate medical care. …

10 indicted in Adams County prison riot
Source: Associated Press, July 24, 2013

Ten people have been indicted for their roles in a riot at a prison in Natchez that left one guard dead, federal authorities said Wednesday. The indictments, announced Wednesday by FBI Special Agent In Charge Daniel McMullen and U.S. Attorney Gregory K. Daniels, are in addition to nine others previously charged in connection with the May 20, 2012, riot at the privately-run Adams County Correctional Center. The prison is owned by Nashville, Tenn.-based Corrections Corporation of America, one of the nation’s largest private prison companies….The prison holds nearly 2,500 inmates, most of them convicted on charges of coming back to the U.S. after deportation for being in the country illegally….

Guard killed in prison riot / Several injured in uprising at Adams County facility
Source: Therese Apel, Clarion Ledger, May 21, 2012

An uprising in the Adams County Correctional Facility near Natchez Sunday left at least one unidentified guard dead and several more transported to the hospital, officials said. Adams County Coroner James Lee said one prison guard is dead of blunt force trauma to the head after the incident….The Adams County Correctional Facility is a $128 million, 2,567-bed prison owned and operated by Corrections Corporation of America. The facility houses adult male illegal immigrants for the Federal Bureau of Prisons….The disturbance started Sunday around 2:40 p.m., according to prison officials. It appears to have been the result of a power struggle among the inmates.

Miss. prison riot leaves guard dead, 8 hurt
Source: Holbrook Mohr, Associated Press, May 21, 2012
Fatal Mississippi prison riot quelled, authorities say
Source: Stephanie Gallman, CNN, May 21, 2012
SWAT Teams have entered the Adams County Prison
Source: WLBT, May 20, 2012
Mississippi Prison on Lockdown After Guard Dies
Source: Robbie Brown, New York Times, May 22, 2012